Today in Apple history: iPhone goes on sale for the first time

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First gen iPhone
The smartphone that changed smartphones!
Photo: Traci Dauphin/Cult of Mac

Wednesday 29 There are no prizes for guessing the significance of today’s “Today in Apple history” installment. On 29 June 2007, the first generation iPhone went on sale — causing massive queues of Apple fans lining up outside Apple Stores around the United States.

And changing the course of not only Apple’s business, but that of the entire mobile industry!

For me, the interesting thing about iPhone mania is to ask how predictable it actually was. The sales and creative genius of someone like Steve Jobs is that they suggest radically new ideas which, once you’ve heard them, sound like such common sense that it’s difficult to imagine things being any other way.

Was there really a time when the idea of a smartphone capable of playing your music, browsing the internet, watching media and making calls seemed not only futuristic, but actually counterintuitive?

Apparently so, as this 2007 comment from Tom Smith, Universal McCann’s research manager for Europe, the Middle East and Asia, suggests: “The simple truth: convergence is a compromise driven by financial limitations, not aspiration. In the markets where multiple devices are affordable, the vast majority would prefer that to one device fits all.”

Universal McCann’s damning appraisal was matched by its own research, suggesting that just 31 percent of Americans wanted a device with multiple capabilities, dropping to 27 percent in Japan. A bit surprising, then, when you consider that both markets are massive iPhone supporters today.

But let’s not forget that the original iPhone had other limitations too, including a lack of 3G connection. It was also AT&T exclusive, and had a high price point — which caused Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer to outwardly laugh at it at the time before his company scrambled to try and follow Apple into the smartphone business.

Ultimately my overwhelming memory of the iPhone is just how revolutionary it seemed at the time. A smartphone with one button and a large flat glass display is what I think of when I picture a cellphone today, but it certainly wasn’t back when I picked up a first-gen iPhone for the first time in 2007.

For proof of just how otherwordly it looked, check out the crowd of awed onlookers in this unusually exciting news report from iPhone launch day:

Despite how transformative it was, however, the iPhone wasn’t the immediate smash hit it is today. Seventy four days after its market release, Apple had sold “just” one million iPhones. By comparison, the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus sold a massive 13 million in their first weekend alone.

Oh, and just to make you feel faintly depressed, AAPL shares were trading at $17.43 on the day the iPhone launched — and that was pre stock-split.

What are your memories of the original iPhone? Leave your comments below.